Objective: This systematic review was performed to summarise randomised clinical trials (RCTs) assessing the efficacy and safety of ginseng in the Korean literature.
Method: The study involved systematic searches conducted in eight Korean Medical databases. The methodological quality of all of the included studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. We included all RCTs on any type of ginseng compared to placebo, active treatment or no treatment in healthy individuals or patients regardless of conditions.
Results: In total, 1415 potentially relevant studies were identified, and 30 randomised clinical trials were included. Nine RCTs assessed the effects of ginseng on exercise capacity, cognitive performance, somatic symptoms, quality of life, and sleeping in healthy persons. Six RCTs tested ginseng compared with placebo for erectile dysfunction, while another four studies evaluated the effects of ginseng against no treatment for gastric and colon cancer. Two RCTs compared the effect of red ginseng on diabetes mellitus with no treatment or placebo, and the other nine RCTs assessed the effects of ginseng compared with placebo or no treatment on various conditions. The methodological caveats of the included trials make their contribution to the current clinical evidence of ginseng somewhat limited. However, the 20 newly added trials (66.7% of the 30 trials) may provide useful information for future trials. Ginseng appears to be generally safe, and no serious adverse effects have been reported.
Conclusions: The clinical effects of ginseng have been tested in a wide range of conditions in Korea. Although the quality of RCTs published in the Korean literature was generally poor, this review is useful for researchers to access studies that were originally published in languages that they would otherwise be unable to read and due to the paucity of evidence on this subject.